Heard It Through the OPENING DAY Grapevine

Posted by Rob Mahoney on October 26, 2010 under xOther | Be the First to Comment

  • Kelly Dwyer of Ball Don’t Lie previews the Mavs’ season, which he pegs for 52 wins (though Dwyer notes that such a mark is easily beatable by this collective): “…as much as age sets in, and as much as a lack of depth will likely keep the Mavericks away from the ranks of the championship contender, Dallas will still field a sound rotation of basketball players that will give them a chance to beat every team – every single one of them – soundly on any given night. Even if Jason Kidd won’t be able to pop jumpers all night as a threat off of a screen and roll, and if Dirk finally does decide to not act like an All-NBA player, the core is good enough to keep this team competitive, and in the race for that distant second spot behind the Los Angeles Lakers.” Also, the Brian Cardinal picture is worth a click-through alone.
  • Check out The Basketball Jones’ season preview for the Mavs, and while you’re at it, the Jones’ first full-length episode of the season. Rejoice!
  • Mike Fisher of DallasBasketball.com: “I suppose there is a fine line between being ‘detail-oriented’ and being a ‘dictatorial control freak.’…let’s put Rick Carlisle and the Mavs coaching staff in the former category, shall we? Remember one of Rick’s main gripes about his players in the San Antonio playoff series: Dallas didn’t win its share of the “50-50 balls,’’ that is, the loose balls on the floor that can be gathered up to gain or retain possession, that can be fast-break starters, momentum-grabbers, game winners. On Sunday, guess what the Mavs worked on? Hustle and angles and attacking, all as they relate to loose balls. A basketball version of football’s ‘fumble drills,’ basically.”
  • Von Wafer (Celtics), Mo Ager (Timberwolves), Jeremy Lin (Warriors), D.J. Mbenga (Hornets), Pops Mensah-Bonsu (Hornets), Shawne Williams (Knicks), and Malik Allen (Magic) all made opening day rosters. Jake Voskuhl, Dwayne Jones, J.R. Giddens, and Joe Crawford did not. (Thanks to Scott Schroeder of Ridiculous Upside for compiling a hell of a list.)
  • From Sports Illustrated’s “NBA Enemy Lines” feature, in which an opposing scout gives his take on a given NBA team: “Their big pickup, Tyson Chandler, is important to them because teams anticipate being able to penetrate from the top against Kidd, Terry and Barea, who all have a hard time keep anybody in front of them. So now the Mavericks should be able to bring over a big guy to meet the penetration, whether it’s Chandler or Brendan Haywood. The fundamental problem remains on the perimeter, but at least now they have some long and mobile big guys who are capable of changing shots. Haywood doesn’t excite anyone too much, but he’s serviceable as a long guy you have to shoot over. I hear people saying he’s soft, but I think that’s a bad rap. He’s effective and he has a nice right hook. Most of the time he’ll be able to turn to that shoulder and get off the shot whenever he wants.” For the record, haven’t heard much of anyone calling Haywood soft. You?
  • A handy tidbit from Jason Terry (via Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News): “We have 17 of 26 games at home to start the season, so we need to set a tone.”
  • Shawn Marion has a lot of faith in Tyson Chandler’s ability to make an impact on defense.
  • Tyson Chandler, from his official site: “To do that, we have to have strong leadership and it’s been great working with a dedicated owner like Mark Cuban. Cube, as we call him, is dope. He’s a cool-cat. He obviously loves the game and he loves to be around it. We know that we have a passionate owner and that’s always a good thing. His only motivation is to win championships…I’m so happy to get a chance to play with two of the best in the game at what they do in Jason Kidd and Dirk Nowitzki. J-Kidd is the ultimate professional. He comes in to work every day and he sees things that I don’t even know if a coach can see. But he sees them in real time, right there on the floor, in the flow of the game. He’s an incredible passer and he’s definitely going to improve my game. Dirk has always been an incredible scorer and an assassin on the offensive end and that’s coming from me being on the other side. Now, getting to watch that daily, I see why he’s one of top players in our league. He’s almost unstoppable.”
  • Mark Followill’s scouting report on Dominique Jones for DallasBasketball.com: “Jones has the strength, tenacity and desire it would appear to defend well at this level, although he has been caught reaching a few times this preseason rather than playing solid defense by using his feet. The weakest part of his game right now is definitely the outside jump shot. Improving that doesn’t appear to be a mechanical issue, but more about spending time in the gym working on it and developing confidence.   I’ve seen some good decisions from him with the ball when he drives in terms of passing. I don’t think that makes him a point guard, but its good he can make smart decisions if he is going to be getting down into the paint with regularity.”

Heard It Through the Grapevine

Posted by Rob Mahoney on February 24, 2010 under xOther | 2 Comments to Read

  • Brendan Haywood on the delicate balance between aggressive defense and avoiding foul trouble in tonight’s match-up with Andrew Bynum and the Lakers (via Todd Archer of the Dallas Morning News): “It’s tough matching up with Big Drew down there because he’s talented, he’s skilled, he’s athletic and he’s a load down there when they give him the ball,” Haywood said. “On the offensive end, I just try to be in constant motion, don’t let him rest. Quick duck-ins, post-ups, go to the offensive glass every play, working the baseline and trying to get open, not letting him just key on Dirk’s post-up, things of that nature. I have to be smart, but I can’t play scared. I can’t take a silly foul early on, because they’re too big for our back-ups. But at the same time, I can’t just give up layups and inside position because that’ll hurt us, as well.”
  • 48 Minutes of Hell recently started up a Spurs podcast, and I joined Graydon Gordian and Andrew McNeil on the most recent episode with to discuss the Mavs latest moves, Mavs-Spurs, how Dallas matches up with L.A., and NBA players participating in international competition.
  • This isn’t the first time that Dwayne Jones’ stay in the NBA was short-lived or over before it began, and Ridiculous Upside’s Scott Schroeder is a bit baffled as to why.
  • If somehow you haven’t heard, EA Sports is releasing a new version of NBA Jam for the Wii that will reboot the series with current players while staying true to the style of the original. I tell you this not only because it looks to be awesome (and it will be), but because EA is selecting the three-man rosters for every team through online voting. They’ve cycled through teams over the last few months, and finally come to the Mavs. So go here, and vote between Nowitzki, Kidd, Terry, Marion, Butler, and Haywood for who you’d like to see represent the Mavs in the new Jam.
  • A very happy birthday to Rodrigue Beaubois, who turns 22 today. ‘Day’ is a vestigial mode of time measurement based on solar cycles. It’s not applicable…I didn’t get you anything.
  • Looking back at Caron Butler, the Wizard, in 2009-2010.
  • Kevin Pelton’s SCHOENE projection system isn’t kind in predicting Dirk Nowitzki’s statistical production in 2010-2011 and beyond; it ranks him below Manu Ginobili, Joe Johnson, David Lee, and Rudy Gay (not to mention the obvious: LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh) among the 2010 free agent class in terms of three-year production. Pelton qualifies the projections: “SCHOENE is also especially pessimistic about the group of Carlos Boozer, Dirk Nowitzki and Paul Pierce (who is fairly unlikely to opt out of the last year of his contract and become a free agent). Boozer and Nowitzki are similar in that their projections for 2010-11 are pretty solid, but things go downhill quickly from there. In these cases, I’m somewhat less inclined to believe the projections. It should be noted, though, that Nowitzki has taken a clear step back the last couple of seasons, in large part because he is no longer a contributor on the glass. As recently as three years ago, Nowitzki was grabbing 14.7 percent of all available rebounds. This year, that’s down to 11.6 percent. The gradual drop can’t entirely be blamed on the Mavericks adding Shawn Marion to compete for rebounds with Nowitzki.”
  • Via Mavs’ play-by-play man Mark Followill (@MFollowill), Dallas has only signed four players to a 10-day contract over the last decade: Charlie Bell, Mamadou N’Diaye, Kevin Willis, and now, Von Wafer.
  • Caron Butler on playing alongside Kobe Bryant in 2004-2005 (via Todd Archer of the Dallas Morning News): “I say that’s the best thing that ever could have happened for me personally for my career. To play alongside a guy like that, see his preparation, see what it takes to get to that level, that’s why I was able to be so good in Washington because I took everything I learned from him under his wing.”
  • For those still keeping tabs on such things, Kris Humphries has come back down to Earth.
  • The bright side of Josh Howard’s injury? The Wizards won’t be tempted to pick up his option for next season.
  • Howard’s history certainly makes him a nice fit in the greater context of the Wizards franchise over the last season.

Reboot

Posted by Rob Mahoney on under Commentary, News, Roster Moves | 3 Comments to Read

The Mavs’ big man search is back to square one. Dallas was close to signing D-League All-Star Dwayne Jones to a 10-day contract to provide depth at center, but the Mavs were apparently left unimpressed by his workout today with the team. Marc Stein notes that Jake Voskuhl could be Jones’ replacement, a move which I find to be a bit uninspired and plenty underwhelming. We know what Voskuhl can do, and we know plenty about what he can’t do. But Jones deserves a legit shot at the pro level, and I think his unassuming, low-maintenance game would have been a nice addition for Dallas off the bench.

Apparently it wasn’t meant to be. But Stein also reports that the Mavs still plan on signing Von Wafer to a 10-day and will possibly put pen to paper tomorrow.

Making the Leap

Posted by Rob Mahoney on February 23, 2010 under News, Roster Moves | 2 Comments to Read


Per Marc Stein, the Mavs are bringing in the Austin Toros’ Dwayne Jones for a workout and likely a subsequent 10-day contract. The Mavs will also bring in Von Wafer for another workout, though mostly to gauge his back rather than his abilities. The Mavs have just 13 players on the roster, meaning they could sign both players to contracts (10-day or otherwise) if they so choose. Not a bad idea considering Wafer’s potential as an explosive scorer and Jones’ ability to contribute as a third big man.

If you’ll recall, we actually discussed Dwayne Jones around these parts over a month ago when the Najera-Humphries swap opened up a roster spot. Steve Weinman of D-League Digest was kind enough to point out the most logical call-up candidates given the Mavs’ position, and among them (along with Anthony Tolliver, who was since called up by the Warriors) was Jones. Here’s what Weinman had to say at the time:

Dwayne Jones (Austin): Gets pooh-poohed a bit because he doesn’t have much to speak of in the way of shot-creation skills and certainly won’t be initiating his own offense at the next level.  Doesn’t really seem to dominate games at the defensive end, though he can definitely hold his own in that realm.  All that said, we’re talking about a guy with legitimate NBA size (6-11, 250 pounds) who is posting 17 points per game on better than 60 percent shooting from the field thanks to the fact that he hammers the offensive boards (more than six per game) and does a ton on put-backs and tips.  He leads the league in per-game rebounding at more than 15 per game (and yes, it would be great if someone out there were tracking rebound rate in the D-League, though the Toros don’t play an especially fast pace – so I don’t think the figure is too misleading).  Given that you don’t call a guy up from the D-League to dominate the ball or be some kind of star, I think this may be the guy for the spot if the decision to push for a big man because he’ll be able to do much of what he already does at the next level – scrap around for rebounds and get a few garbage buckets while forcing opponents to put a body on him on the offensive glass. Plus, he has the size to guard opposing bigs.

Adding Jones would be a terrific addition for the Mavs, who could use him to fill the role of a Ryan Hollins-type big man…if Ryan Hollins could actually rebound. He’s not going to revolutionize the game or win Player of the Week honors anytime soon, but Jones is more than capable of coming in to provide solid minutes for a Mavs team lacking in big bodies.

But just as important: bringing in Jones for a workout would be the first significant interaction the Mavs have had with the D-League since the days when J.J. Barea ruled the world as a member of the now-defunct Fort Worth Flyers. These types of interactions will obviously become more regular next season when the Mavs’ new D-League affiliate in Frisco is actually open for business, but this is a positive development. It’s unlikely that Jones would be anything but a short-term replacement, but a baby step is still a step, and the closer the Mavs get to the D-League, the better the chance of mining some real, rotation-caliber talent.

EDIT: For more on Dwayne Jones, I’d urge you to check out a few more links from Weinman at D-League Digest:

  • Jones, on what he needs to do to take his game to the next level: “Just show what I can do offensively, and just continue to hustle and show what I can do. They’re not going to bring me in to score 20 points; they’re going to bring me in to hustle, rebound and defend, so I just got to keep showing that.”
  • Some very cogent analysis on why Jones’ game is perfect for translation to NBA production. Don’t expect the 16.8 points and 15.4 rebounds per game that he’s averaging in Austin (or, as Steve notes, the 17 double-doubles in 20 games), but it’s excellent to note that the things that Jones does best don’t require high usage or a ton of opportunity.

Hidden in Plain View

Posted by Rob Mahoney on January 11, 2010 under Commentary | 6 Comments to Read


The Kris Humphries-Eddie Najera swap is still pending league approval, but one of the latent benefits of trading two players for one is the open spot on the roster the Mavs now have the benefit of filling. More than likely, they’ll fill the spot with a minimum salary guy who will play very, very little, or they’ll fill it with a string of 10-day contract players before settling on someone they like. The point of all of this, remember, is to save a little bit of coin. So the Mavs will likely wait as long as possible before making any kind of monetary commitment, and then sign an efficient, low-baggage vet for as little money as possible.

I expect more. The classic move here is to find the vaunted “locker room guy”: a player-sage with experience and leadership who has mastered the art of playing without playing. He influences the mood and effort of others by having a positive impact on team chemistry, and he’s a net-gain to the franchise without playing many minutes. That’s all well and good, but I’d very much prefer the Mavs go for someone who’s younger and hungrier. They should try looking for a diamond in the rough, or at the very least a piece of quartz. You’ll find that while there aren’t many all-stars to be had on the open market in January, rotation players can be found if you look in the right places. And though right now the Mavs are likely only looking for a 15th to fill out the practice roster, provide chemistry intangibles, and to have another live body around, wouldn’t it be nice if said 15th man had rotation potential?

Luckily, I know just the place to start looking: the D-League. Consider me an advocate of the system and what it represents, and as you may remember, I’m particularly fond of Donnie Nelson’s venture into D-League ownership in Frisco. That said, while I like to escape to the D-League for some sightseeing, I decided to enlist the help of someone a bit more familiar with the landscape: Steve Weinman of the wonderful D-League Digest. Maybe at the moment, D-League ball doesn’t quite tickle your fancy. That’s cool, it’s not everybody’s cup of tea. But I hope you’ll acquaint yourselves more and more with the the league and the process over the next few months, if only because I think that the new Frisco affiliate can be very fruitful if used properly. Weinman’s work at the Digest is a fine way to do that, and though the specific players, teams, and match-ups may not interest you just yet, they’ll give you a feel of what’s to come. With a firm understanding of the system and a realistic set of expectations concerning what that system can produce (specialists, hustle players, and hopefully contributing members of a rotation), the Frisco experiment should prove to be a boon for the Maverick brass.

But I digress. In the meantime, the Mavs have a spot on the bench that needs filling, and a league full of prospects they could potentially do it with.

According to Weinman, “the place to start is with Anthony Tolliver – who might well be the best all-around player in the league.” Steve honed in on Tolliver (who you may remember from short stints with the Spurs last season and the Blazers this season) following his ubiquitous brilliance in a losing effort:

I can’t find a word more descriptive of Tolliver’s performance than “everywhere.” At 6-foot-9 and 240 pounds, Tolliver is a large man, even by basketball standards. But the seven threes he took weren’t typical of the 21st century pseudo-bigs who hang around the perimeter waiting for kickouts. On several sets, he facilitated the Idaho offense from the top of the circle, displaying his deft ball-handling skills and comfortably creating his own outside shot off the dribble.  That he went just 2-for-7 from the three-point line can be forgiven because Tolliver has a fine track record as a bomber from deep: He shoots 40 percent from three for his D-League career and hit a scorching 47.8 percent of his attempts in the first week of the new campaign.

But this was no post-Detroit Rasheed Wallace-type showing either.  For as much time as Tolliver spent on the perimeter, he somehow seemed to be involved in everything that went on inside for the Stampede as well.  AT routinely established position down low, delivered several great feeds to cutters from the blocks, made a couple of post moves of his own and earned himself eight trips to the foul line.  Though he didn’t finish consistently around the bucket, he seemed to constantly materialize wherever the ball came off the rim.

It was Tolliver who sprinted to the sideline to snare long rebounds from unsuspecting Dakota guards and revive multiple Idaho possessions, and it was Tolliver who fought his way to loose balls amidst the pack inside as well. Defensively, we saw more of the same. One second, Tolliver was jumping out to double a guard on a high screen-and-roll; the next, he was waiting at the rim to provide help on penetration or swat a shot out of vicinity of the basket.

There are plenty of guys on the basketball circuit who can fill up a stat sheet, and Anthony Tolliver did his share of box score-stuffing on Wednesday night: 20 points, 17 rebounds (7 offensive), 4 assists, 2 steals, 2 blocks and 6 turnovers. But to borrow the type of term Walt Frazier enjoys using, I can remember few other occasions when a player seemed as omnipresent as AT did on Wednesday. Given that he posts a career D-League true shooting figure near 60 percent, to think that he is often most of what he was on Wednesday night plus a considerably more efficient scorer is scary.

Tolliver is, in many ways, the class of the D-League. And though he doesn’t fit the Mavs’ most obvious need (another big man, preferably one capable of filling in minutes at center) in an obvious way, he could still be a nice addition to a team like Dallas. AT is probably best served playing in the big leagues as a combo forward, and he could essentially offer an alternative to Tim Thomas. That doesn’t give any extra rest to Erick Dampier or Drew Gooden (unless it involves Dirk sliding over to the 5), but it does fill the last spot in the rotation with a capable, versatile player that’s just 24 years of age.

In Tolliver, the Mavs could get another spot-up three-point shooter, a capable defender at either forward position, and a good defensive rebounder. He’s not a perfect player, but he has clearly defined strengths that could be of value to a NBA team. I just hope that NBA team is the Mavericks.

Weinman also offered three alternatives in the way of big men:

Rod Benson (Reno): He of the Boom Tho movement recently announced a halt to his blogging in an apparent effort to curtail any possible reasons for NBA teams to shy away from him. Long arms make him a very good shot-blocker in addition to being a solid rebounder.  There are many out there who are bigger fans of his game than I am – there isn’t a particular part of his game that has really wowed me when I’ve watched him this year.  He has a decent offensive game, and he has started working on Tim Duncan’s bank shot from the wings, which is a work in progress.  He’s a legit 6-10, although a bit more bulk and further refinement of his offensive game would make him a stronger candidate.

Dwayne Jones (Austin): Gets pooh-poohed a bit because he doesn’t have much to speak of in the way of shot-creation skills and certainly won’t be initiating his own offense at the next level.  Doesn’t really seem to dominate games at the defensive end, though he can definitely hold his own in that realm.  All that said, we’re talking about a guy with legitimate NBA size (6-11, 250 pounds) who is posting 17 points per game on better than 60 percent shooting from the field thanks to the fact that he hammers the offensive boards (more than six per game) and does a ton on put-backs and tips.  He leads the league in per-game rebounding at more than 15 per game (and yes, it would be great if someone out there were tracking rebound rate in the D-League, though the Toros don’t play an especially fast pace – so I don’t think the figure is too misleading).  Given that you don’t call a guy up from the D-League to dominate the ball or be some kind of star, I think this may be the guy for the spot if the decision to push for a big man because he’ll be able to do much of what he already does at the next level – scrap around for rebounds and get a few garbage buckets while forcing opponents to put a body on him on the offensive glass. Plus, he has the size to guard opposing bigs.

Carlos Powell (Albuquerque): The lefty has been an offensive dynamo all season, averaging nearly 23 points per game, and knocking down more than 34 percent of his threes in addition to doing plenty of scoring inside.  Problem is, he’s only 6-7 and more of a 3-4 tweener at the next level. And while he is a serviceable defender, I’m not sure he does anything aside from scoring that will be particularly valuable from a big man at the next level – and you’re not bringing a guy up to give him 20-30 touches per game.  This is a guy who wowed people at the Showcase and is headed for an eventual call-up, but he probably isn’t the one for this spot.

That said, Rick Carlisle may not be solely interested in an additional big man. Rodrigue Beaubois found a bit of playing time in the Mavs’ last two games, but Carlisle doesn’t seem quite ready to trust Roddy as the team’s third point guard. Supposing he wants to keep Jason Terry in his natural 2-guard position, picking up another PG would seem to be an understandable temptation. I’m all for the “FREE RODDY” movement, but Carlisle is a guy who knows what he wants; if he’s not ready for Beaubois to initiate the offense, then get him a third PG whom he is comfortable with. Since you mentioned some interest in a point guard:

Dontell Jefferson (Utah): Nearly universally regarded as the top choice for the next call-up…until the Jazz made the surprising call to bring up Idaho’s Sundiata Gaines last week. There were apparently some concerns about Jefferson’s knees, but if he is fully healthy, he’s the first choice at the one: Jefferson is a dynamic scorer and distributor who shoots the three-pointer well (39.7 percent from the field), defends and has great size at 6-5.  Can moonlight at the two as well.

Antonio Anderson (Rio Grande Valley): My personal favorite player in the D-League.  Not a point guard by nature, but he’s done plenty of ball-handling for an RGV team that regularly runs with three guards, and chats with the front office personnel from RGV while at Showcase last week yielded that they expect him to be a second or third-string point guard who can also guard twos at the next level.  Anderson is a terrific passer with great size at the point (he’s 6-6), which allows him to see passing lanes nicely over his man much of the time. He’s also an excellent defender whose shooting from mid-range and beyond continues to improve.  Just received Performer of the Month honors in the D-League, and I’d be shocked if he didn’t get a look at the next level down the stretch.

If Nelson, Cuban, and Carlisle see a superior player in the free agent pool, then so be it. I’m all about meritocracy, and if a player is talented and fits well in the system, then by all means. But the Mavs are doing themselves a great disservice if they don’t explore all available options simply because of convention. Veterans can add a lot to a team, but the Mavs have already traded Humphries’ youth and athleticism in favor of Najera’s savvy and leadership. Shouldn’t they use the remaining roster spot to regain a bit of that youthful energy in the rotation?